Family Valued

I have written before about the nasty funnel of rage who is soon to be not anything-in-law to me. And my opinions on her behavior still hold. And I still cross all available appendages (don’t snicker at me) in hopes that the clear culling of her from my family happens as soon as possible.

But I have yet to comment fully on the positive side of the experience, and the new angles of vision afforded to me by the legal, familial and now geographical separations.

My weekend in Seattle, at the NX4 gathering, was a lesson in positivity. 150 or so men who were all lovely to one another, friendly, warm, convivial; who said hello rather than looked away or down as they passed; who took chances on other people returning kindnesses; who, as a group prioritized good will above selfishness, meanness, coldness, insecurity.

And the thought struck me just yesterday that I’ve experienced this in abundance, all my life, from one set of people who have always been there for me, and in whom I have faith will always be there for me. As I will be for them: my family.

My mother once gave me a sweatshirt that said read “family is a group of people who love each other.” Simple as that.

As gay men, we take that to mean we have license to define family however we see fit. And we do. And this is a good thing.

But do we spend so much time in defining our own families by the friendships they contain?

I think of my father sometimes as a friend with whom I can talk about cars and movies and architecture with, whose encyclopedic knowledge of those things astounds me.

I think of my mother sometimes as a confidante for those things only someone who has known me for 39 years would understand.

I think of my older brother, the one whose life has been inverted, up-ended, imploded, exploded as a friend who challenges my opinions, for better or worse, but who I know will never let argument create distance.

And my younger brother, Sam. He was my first friend in the entire world. We have always been as close as twins, even though now he stands a good half-foot taller than I. We used to be able to wear the same clothes growing up. Once he knocked a front babytooth of mine out with a whiffle bat. We talk often, still, and in many ways he is the most regularly familiar one to me of anyone. We don’t talk about the closeness too often, because it’s a given.

With him and with all my family, the trust that we’ll each “be there” for the others runs so deep that we take it for granted. That sounds like we don’t appreciate what we have. On the contrary, the assumption, the trust, the faith of it is so comprehensive and so fundamental that to make it conscious would only cheapen it.

I have a large family here in San Francisco, comprised of good and talented and funny and lovely friends. That much is obvious to anyone who gets to know me.

But more people should know that I have a small circle of friends, mostly back in Pennsylvania, comprised of good and talented and funny and lovely family.